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Main article: Trump can defend the liberties of Hong Kong and still hold out in Chinese trade

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Congress stood up for the endangered freedoms of Hong Kong this week by adopting a bill that opens the door to potential sanctions – while at the same time binding the autonomous region in the trade dispute between the US and China. The next step is from President Trump, who could finally offer Hong Kong protesters some much needed moral support by signing the bill.

Hong Kong apparently differs from the rest of China, which since 1999 has largely left the region to settle its own internal affairs, maintain its independent judiciary and respect the civil rights of its inhabitants. Hong Kong also exempted its special status from the tariffs and other trade sanctions that the Trump government began to impose on Beijing last year.

But Hong Kongers have periodically felt the long arm of Beijing, despite the official promise of autonomy for another 30 years.

In February, that range came in the form of an extradition bill that could have used to send Hong Kongers to mainland China for prosecution. Broad demonstrations led to the withdrawal of the bill, but that did not stop the protests, which have only increased. The demands of protesters now include voting rights, amnesty for protesters and an investigation into police violence.

Protests this week at the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong turned into a siege when police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and demonstrators closed Molotov cocktails and shot arrows.

Last week, soldiers from the Hong Kong garrison of the People's Liberation Army (the army from the Chinese mainland) helped clean up the dirt from the streets. The movement was generally seen as a warning that the army was ready to suppress protests.

While Trump alternately scolded China and ruled over the trade, he sat down disappointingly about Hong Kong, his special status and the rights of his people. This is in stark contrast to his criticism of Iran, where petrol price protests have become violent.

On Tuesday, the Senate approved the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on a two-part vote, which would oblige the Secretary of State to certify annually whether Hong Kong remains sufficiently autonomous from China to maintain special trade status. The House of Representatives followed Wednesday, also after a bilingual vote.

An accompanying bill prohibits the sale in the United States of tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, water cannons, stun guns, and similar police equipment to Hong Kong.

The bill may make ongoing trade negotiations between the US and China more difficult, but Trump should still embrace it. The US should offer Hong Kongers official support when defending their liberties – and insisting that Beijing continue to adhere to Hong Kong & # 39; s autonomy.

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